With the hard work of two local nonprofits, a new mixed-use development providing affordable housing and a purpose-built homeless shelter has sprouted on the site of a former DMV in Alexandria, Virginia.
Carpenter’s Shelter, a homeless services provider, had retrofitted the DMV building to operate as its shelter for many years, but it outlived its purpose as it aged and utility costs grew. Looking at how to continue its mission, the nonprofit partnered with Alexandria Housing Development Corp. (AHDC) to create new uses on the site located in the city’s growing Braddock Road Metro neighborhood.
The nonprofits created an 18,000-square-foot shelter with 60 beds and case management and then used density and additional rezoning to add height above it to create The Bloom, which includes 97 affordable housing units for households primarily earning between 50% and 60% of the area median income. Ten of those units, which have city-based housing vouchers, are set aside as permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless with wraparound services provided by Carpenter’s Shelter.
“It was the work of two local nonprofits monetizing the value of the land,” says AHDC president and CEO Jonathan Frederick. “One, there is an ongoing need for affordable housing. And, we created a permanent home for Carpenter’s Shelter that will continue to be ingrained in the Braddock neighborhood as it continues to grow.”
The Bloom was completed at the end of 2020, with 97 leases signed in 63 days and over 1,600 people on a waitlist, and the impact already is being felt.
Frederick says one of the residents who has moved into a permanent supportive housing unit had been homeless since 1971—on the streets and couch surfing with no permanent home for almost five decades.
“Now that he has a permanent home, it’s a really great story,” he says. “It’s so hard once they get into that system of street homelessness to find a place to live and not have to go through background and credit checks.”
Amenities include a community room and a playground, which are currently closed due to COVID-19. Fruits and vegetables from the 1,600-square-foot production garden, which will be run by Love & Carrots, will be free for residents, with extra produce going to the Carpenter’s Shelter and other AHDC properties.
The $49.8 million development was financed with 9% low-income housing tax credits allocated by Virginia Housing, with Wells Fargo as the investor and construction lender. The Bloom benefited from additional financing from Virginia Housing, city of Alexandria soft funds, as well as funds from the Virginia Housing Trust Fund and the National Housing Trust Fund. Virginia Community Capital also provided predevelopment money for the project.
Additional partners include general contractor Whiting Turner, architect Cooper Carry, civil engineer Bowman Consulting, and property manager SL Nusbaum Realty.
Founded in 2004, AHDC has grown substantially over the past five years—from 183 units to over 700 units. The nonprofit is working on entitlements for two projects—a 40-unit homeownership project in partnership with Sheltered Homes of Alexandria as well as an affordable housing development in the Arlandria neighborhood, near the planned Amazon HQ2 headquarters, that will include up to 500 units in several phases.
“We are Alexandria-focused. AHDC’s idea is to stay within our geographic footprint and expand our business lines to homeownership and land trusts to really serve our community,” Frederick says. “We think it’s a big part of the need for racial and social equity that has impacted too many of our neighbors for so long.”